Tesla was rocked on Thursday after news emerged that the SEC has filed a lawsuit against CEO Elon Musk over his tweets last August stating that he was considering taking the company private at $420 per share, and that he had “funding secured.” As Tesla feels the fallout resulting from the SEC’s lawsuit, details of the commissions’ filing, including a failed settlement with Musk and his legal team, are coming to light.
It should be noted that Elon Musk himself is the only entity named in the SEC lawsuit, not Tesla as a company. No criminal charges against Musk have been put forward as well. Nevertheless, several of the company’s skeptics have welcomed the news. Former GM executive Bob Lutz, for one, who recently claimed that Tesla is “headed for the graveyard” since it has “no tech advantage, no software advantage, and no battery advantage” against established automakers, noted in an email to the Los Angeles Times that Musk is “toast.” The steep 9.9% drop during after-hours trading also weighed down on Tesla stock (NASDAQ:TSLA) heavily, ironically dealing damage to the company’s investors.
A report published by the Wall Street Journal outlines a rather unique set of events that led up to the SEC’s decision to file a suit against Elon Musk. According to individuals reportedly familiar with the matter, the SEC had actually crafted a settlement for Elon Musk that was approved by the agency’s commissioners. Musk’s legal team reportedly called SEC’s lawyers in San Francisco on Thursday, stating that they were no longer interested in proceeding with the settlement. With this, the SEC reportedly rushed to craft a complaint against Musk, which was filed later during the day.
The reasons behind Elon Musk’s decision to walk away from a settlement with the SEC are yet to be revealed, but by doing so, Musk has taken on what could very well be his most dangerous legal battle to date. The SEC, after all, is not only demanding that Musk pay civil penalties; the commission is also demanding that he be prohibited from acting as an officer or director of a publicly-traded company. Musk, for his part, gave a brief statement to CNBC regarding the SEC’s lawsuit against him.
“This unjustified action by the SEC leaves me deeply saddened and disappointed. I have always taken action in the best interests of truth, transparency, and investors. Integrity is the most important value in my life, and the facts will show I never compromised this in any way,” Musk said.
Tesla’s Board of Directors has issued a statement expressing its full support for Elon Musk. The board’s statement, while brief, emphasized that apart from standing behind the beleaguered CEO, Tesla is focused on its fundamentals, particularly the ongoing Model 3 production ramp. Following is the Telsa Board of Directors’ statement about the SEC filing.
“Tesla and the board of directors are fully confident in Elon, his integrity, and his leadership of the company, which has resulted in the most successful U.S. auto company in over a century. Our focus remains on the continued ramp of Model 3 production and delivering for our customers, shareholders, and employees.”
Considering that he opted to walk away from a settlement with the SEC, it appears that Elon Musk is once more choosing to pursue a more difficult path forward. Such tendencies are classic Elon Musk, though past announcements from the CEO do suggest that he foresaw adverse developments coming in Tesla’s direction. In a letter to the company’s employees earlier this month, for example, Musk urged employees to stand firm and focus on meeting its ambitious and self-imposed targets.
“We are about to have the most amazing quarter in our history, building and delivering more than twice as many cars as we did last quarter. For a while, there will be a lot of fuss and noise in the media. Just ignore them. Results are what matter and we are creating the most mind-blowing growth in the history of the automotive industry,” Musk wrote.
Elon Musk’s statement in his letter to employees does not seem to be an exaggeration. In true Tesla fashion, the company is now in the process of delivering as many of its electric cars to as many reservation holders as possible. The Model 3 production ramp, which seems to have hit its stride since Tesla managed to hit its goal of producing 5,000 units per week at the end of Q2, appears to be going strong as well. Deliveries have also increased to the point where some owners of the company’s electric cars have volunteered to help out Tesla’s delivery centers by orienting new owners with the features and functions of their vehicles.
Tesla is aiming to produce and deliver more than 50,000 Model 3 this quarter. While such a number is ambitious, even longtime skeptics of the company such as Goldman Sachs analyst David Tamberrino have noted that Tesla’s production and delivery figures for Q3 2018 would likely be within the company’s target. Tesla board member Kimbal Musk also pointed out in a CNBC Closing Bell segment that “it’s really gonna blow people’s minds how many Model 3s are gonna appear in America in just the next couple of weeks.”